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Moll wins MBC girls title

Charging to the finish line to earn the Middle Border Conference girls cross country championship is St. Croix Central senior Liv Moll. Dave Newman / RiverTown Multimedia

With 2017 Middle Border Conference champion Liv Moll leading the way, the St. Croix Central girls put up the best effort they possibly could in pursuing the 2017 MBC team cross country championship.

The Panthers fell nine points short of their goal, but were a highly respectable second place team at the 2017 MBC cross country meet, held last Thursday at the Prescott Intermediate School. The Central boys also performed admirably, placing third among the eight teams at the meet.

The WIAA tournament series is now the Panthers' focus. They will be competing this Friday at the WIAA Division 2 sectional meet at Fish Hatchery Park in Hayward. The girls race will begin at 4 p.m. with the boys race starting at 4:45 p.m.

Both St. Croix Central teams are hoping they'll be one of the two teams that advance to the state meet out of the sectional meet. Central coach Bill Emery said he believes there are three teams in the running for the two state qualifying spots from each sectional race. He said the main opposition for the Panthers, as they try to qualify for their second straight state meet, comes from Hayward and Northwestern. For the Panther boys, Osceola and Northwestern provide the main challenge to the Panthers' hopes.

Emery said the Panthers can achieve their goal of reaching state "by reaching the race they have already run, just all at the same time. If we do it all the same day, we'll go on."

The Panther girls came close to running their optimal race at the conference meet. They finished nine points behind New Richmond in the battle for the 2017 team title.

"We were as close as I think we could possibly get to them," Emery said, saying he didn't see any possible place where the Panthers could have made up the nine points. Combined, New Richmond and Central had eight of the top 10 finishers in the race.

You couldn't see any disappointment in the Panthers after the conference meet. They were especially happy to see Moll finish as the conference champion. After being forced to drop out of the 2016 race, there were no worries this season. Moll ran strong and tall and was adding to her lead at the end of the race.

Emery said Moll was concerned when the first mile was being run at a slower pace and that none of the other runners was trying to overtake her. In the second mile, Moll broke away from the pack that surrounded her and built a comfortable lead. She finished in 20:06, seven seconds ahead of New Richmond's Kayla Harris.

This was an extremely young field of runners. Moll was the only senior among the top 16 finishers in the girls race. Central's third and fourth runners, Marie Hamlin and Claire Moll, were the only juniors among the top 18 finishers.

Emery said having Liv Moll make her move in the second mile of a race has been their strategy since the meet in Menomonie in September. Moll thinks she doesn't have a huge finishing kick, though you wouldn't believe that after the strong charge she put on to reach the finish line last Tuesday.

She wasn't the only strong finisher for the Panthers. Freshman Sydney Carlson continues to climb up the pack, finishing in sixth place. After Moll, the next five finishers in the conference race were all freshmen.

"Sydney is finding a lot of courage in running," Emery said.

Hamlin was incredibly steady finishing in eighth place. Claire Moll moved up to tenth in the final rankings after she passed a handful of runners in the last 200 yards.

Freshman Mya Kizer was the Panthers' fifth runner, placing 16th. Junior Kourtney Labeause and sophomore Liberty Grant finished together at 22:37 as the Panthers' sixth and seventh runners.

Central's boys took third place in the MBC meet. There were three strong programs at the front of the pack and the Panthers happened to finish behind incredibly strong teams from Osceola and New Richmond. The Panthers are hoping they and Osceola can be the two teams from this sectional that represent the area at the conference meet.

Sophomore Erik Collins and freshman Cougar Holder were both first team All-MBC runners, placing sixth and seventh after running shoulder-to-shoulder throughout the meet. Seniors Spencer Goodwin and Will Spitzmueller were the Panthers' third and fourth finishers, placing 18th and 26th. Sophomore Josh Burgess was the fifth Panther, placing 29th, with Micah Larsen and Derek Rock as the sixth and seventh runners.

Emery said there were some surprises from the JV boys at the conference meet and it will affect the lineup at the sectional meet. Jacob Eggen had the third best overall time for the Panthers and Riley Hackbarth had the fifth best time, meaning they will both likely be in the lineup Friday at Hayward.

Dave Newman
Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.
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